Uzbekistan: impostors and non-citizens as voters
Official media outlets in Uzbekistan kept repeating that the Central Electoral Commission had been reported no violations in the course of the election of the president of Uzbekistan on December 23. The media concentrated on observers' positive appraisal of the election and its organization. Ferghana.Ru correspondents and their volunteer aides in Tashkent in the meantime observed numerous episodes that could be treated as banal slipshodness or deliberate attempts to rig the outcome of the election.
For starters, a great deal of residents of Tashkent received two invitations to the election each. They were expected to attend the polling station they were officially registered at and another one, the closest to the actual place of residence. Lists of voters had been compiled by the local municipal authorities who simply copied names from communal services sheets. That was how owners of real estate received two invitations at once - one at the officially registered address and the other at the actual place of residence. In fact, correspondents' voluntary helpers reported that even some non-residents of Uzbekistan - foreign citizens and people without citizenship - had received invitations to the election.
With two invitations on hands, Ferghana.Ru correspondents themselves decided to go for it indeed and vote twice. They got away with it without any trouble. Their names were on the lists of voters at two different polling stations.
Off the record conversations with other voters revealed other nuances of the election as well. Lots of citizens of Uzbekistan never received any invitations to the election at all.
"Setting out for Polling Station No 44 in my native Uchtepe district of Tashkent, I took my wife's passport with me. My wife does not walk, you know," pensioner by name of Victor Yevgenievich told Ferghana.Ru. "People like her are usually visited by officials of local electoral commissions with portable urns for bulletins. Not by officials themselves, as a matter of fact. It is usually local teachers who are given this chore. Well, when we were electing the parliament in December 2004, our whole district was without electric power for some reason or other. Teachers must have decided not to brave apartment buildings in the dark then and nobody visited us."
"This time, however, we were determined to exercise our voting rights and leave nothing to chance," Victor Yevgenievich continued. "I alone got the invitation. I took my wife's passport with me therefore to vote in her name. Lists of voters at the polling station for some reason did not include her name. I was about to make noise but officials apologized and said they had a special additional list of voters for cases like this and that my wife's name would be inserted in it this very instance. They kept their word and I was given two bulletins. My friends told me afterwards that lots of pensioners, handicapped people, and suchlike had received no invitations and never voted. Sure, someone could make use of their absence and vote for them."
Some particularly outrageous nuances of the election became known on December 23 night, when polling stations closed.
"I did not want to bother at first, because I never expected the election to be free or fair," said one Nadezhda, a designer. "Moreover, I had some work I wanted to do. Besides, I had my elderly parents at home. Officials with portable urns for bulletins usually visit them at home. Nobody did this time, but I met someone I knew afterwards and this woman - she holds some job with our apartment building management - said she had voted in my name and my parents'. She said she had taken pity on officials of local electoral commissions who had to walk door to door when polling stations finally closed, and so on. I asked what candidate she had cast our votes for, but the woman replied that it was all the same to me since I had never turned up at the polling station. But that's just it. I never intended to vote for any candidate at all."
Reports from the regions indicate a similar situation. All these episodes challenge validity of the figures presented by the Central Electoral Commission that estimated the turnout at 90.6% and foment doubts in impartiality of the bulletin-count and the eventual outcome of the election.